Demo Tomorrow, Montrose Visual Arts Guild, Hillcrest Church, 12 PM

Feel free to come down to the MVAG meeting, Monday 3/22/15 as I demonstrate poured watercolor technique.  In preparing for the demo, I have begun 2 paintings showing different stages of the pour.  Here is the process up to where I will demo tomorrow:1 pour Drawing is sketched and ready for small early details before first mask.  The bottom drawing is much darker, so the details would show for photographing each step. 2pour Small details painted and foreground masked. Ready for first pour- lightest value 3pour First pour: cobalt blue, Windsor blue-green, raw sienna, burnt sienna, random left-over transparent yellow from last painting


Second mask. Lots of pinholes to cover where mask shrinks as it dries.  I think part of the reason this happens is that I coat my brush with soap to protect it.  As I apply mask, the soap creates soap bubbles.  I used a mask pen for all the fine detail around the evergreens.  (Note value map/pouring plan above painting.)


second pour- medium value: cobalt blue, Windsor blue-green, raw sienna, burnt sienna, random left-over transparent yellow from last painting, random left-over transparent blue from last painting, and alizarin crimson

final maskfinal pour

Final pour:  study the drip marks to see how the direction the artist tilts the board determines the color blending effects.  I wanted the burnt sienna in the middle ground to appear below the trees and the blues to blend from the forest ground into the trees.  The burnt sienna drips travel down and to the left.  The blue drips travel across and up.  Stay tuned for the final painting, after the mask is removed and the finishing details are added.


#1- final pour- dark: Windsor blue-green, burnt sienna, random left-over transparent blue from last painting, and alizarin crimson  (See final photo.)

#2-  masking demo on top painting.  I will discuss strategies to get a good quality mask layer and the pitfalls of masking.


A Few Pages from my Sketchbook

I have been working on some pencil studies of Conversano Mima, a friend’s 20 year old Lipizzan stallion at White Horse Vale Lipizzans in Goldendale, Washington.  The studies are very different.  The first is a dynamic expression of horse power, while the other is a formal portrait.  Because the drawings are so different, the approach to these paintings suggests different techniques and strategies.  The next step is to test out some of my ideas with watercolor.

study of Conversano Mima, pencil, copyright CIsgreen 2015
study of Conversano Mima, pencil, copyright CIsgreen 2015
portrait study of Conversano Mima, pencil, copyright CIsgreen 2015
portrait study of Conversano Mima, pencil, copyright CIsgreen 2015

Dream Horse #4, “Carousel” part 2

When the mask dried, I was able to do the final overglaze in manganese blue.  Manganese blue is a beautiful color, but tricky because it is an opaque pigment.  Overglazing in the wrong area will either make mud or kill a lively, transparent surface.  In overgrazing this painting, I only painted over the warm, light value areas.  As you can see, the overglaze was influenced by the hue underneath.  Conversely, in the dark areas, the paint would have just sat on the surface, killing the paint quality underneath.  I had to paint very carefully around the dark shapes.

When all was dry, it was safe to remove the mask and discover the final result.  I was very pleased with the strong movement in the pattern, the luminosity of the paint quality, the integration of the dark, hard-line geometric shapes with the organic flow of the masked pattern, and the overall composition.

"Dream Horse #4, Carousel"  copyright Cheri Isgreen 2015
“Dream Horse #4, Carousel” copyright Cheri Isgreen 2015

See all the Dream Horses at my new show, “Legacy,” showing Jan 10 through March 13 at the Ridgway Public Library, Ridgway, CO.  Ridgway is part of Colorado’s Creative Arts Districts.  Opening Reception is Saturday, Jan 10 from 4-7 pm.  Refreshments will be served.

Dream Horse #4 Carousel

The Dream Horse series express my impressions of equine beauty, power, and grace.  This post will describe the artistic process of creating my newest Dream Horse, “Carousel.”  This horse is named after the royal carousel horses of European Baroque courts.  He embodies the round muscular body of a classical horse from that era.  In drawing his head, I created very stylized shapes that flow into the jaw area from the eye and the ear.

As with many of my horses, I start with a detailed pencil study.  In this horse, I wanted to use pattern to describe the musculature, skeleton, and hidden anatomy under the horse’s coat.  Ever since my husband and I decorated a pair of boots for an art auction in the African Mbuti style, I have been fascinated by African pattern motifs and style.  As this horse unfolded, I found myself referencing the free flowing, organic pattern development of the Mbuti to express equine anatomy.  Choosing Mbuti pattern was an appropriate option rather than using strict geometric pattern as one might find on a mosaic tile.  Strict geometry would have resulted in a flat , static image, with the pattern not integrated with the horse’s form.

pencil study "Carousel" copyright Cheri Isgreen 2015
pencil study “Carousel” copyright Cheri Isgreen 2015

After transferring the drawing to watercolor paper, I painted a light value wash with warm colors,  planning a manganese blue overglaze.  I, then, painted the darkest shapes to establish the value range.  To ground the horse, I added geometric shapes under the hooves, but the composition needed more interest in the corners, so I added graded washes at the top and bottom of the painting.  Next I added the pattern mask only in the warm light wash areas where I planned the blue overglaze.  The mask allows negative pattern development in the form of resist, complementing the dark positive pattern shapes in the mane and tail area.  As I was painting the tail, the dripping diamonds suggested the free flow of a swinging tail.  I added a few diamonds to the forelock to add unity to the hair treatment.  As I was drawing patterns with the mask pen, I strove for a sense of volume through pattern movement and direction.  At that point, I decided adding organic pattern to the background washes at the top and bottom of the painting would further unify the painting.

I liked how the painting was developing and was anxious for the mask to dry, so I could apply the final glaze.  Stay tuned to see the final result.

Carousel, stage 2, copyright Cheri Isgreen 2015
Carousel, stage 2, copyright Cheri Isgreen 2015

Dream Horses

I’m dreaming of long-legged horses with fantastic hair dos.  This has become a pursuit I have been investigating this past month.  The images come into my mind, and since the horses are not based on real anatomy, the research is in working out pleasing proportions for these fantasy horses.

Dream Horse #1 "Queen Bee" copyright Cheri Isgreen
Dream Horse #1 “Queen Bee” copyright Cheri Isgreen

Like long legged fashion models,  questions arose-

*Do I include joints, or do I simply suggest long legggggggggs stretching to infinity?

*If I show the joints, (knees, hocks, fetlocks),  where do I place them along the continuum?

*What is more pleasing, normal sized joints within long legs, or elongated, like the legs themselves?  If I elongate the joints, what happens if I exaggerate their sizes?  If I make substantial feet, I can express the power in the hoofbeat…  What is the effect if I make tiny hooves with the joints becoming progressively smaller as they got longer?

Plenty of decisions to make & a lot of variables to draw, explore, and think about.  In my first three compositions, I’ve decided to include the joints, as I love articulating them.  I decided not to exaggerate them, either smaller or larger.   In future compositions, it will be fun to play with some other solutions.

These horses embody lots of pattern and fanciful hairstyles.   I’m enjoying the different ways to use pattern & dreaming up new hair dos…..

“Queen Bee” is modeled after Stella, the lovely warmblood mare I recently painted as a commission.  As I have mentioned, this mare has such presence and attitude.  Here she is in the dream realm.  I started with an all-over geometric design with a mask pen.  After the mask was removed, the pattern only appears in the places that received paint.  In the white areas, the pattern is implied- a vehicle I enjoy using in all my painting. I’m always looking for opportunities for lost & found edges, defining with negative space, and using implication to tell a story.  The palette is a strong use of contrasts with “orange” (burnt & raw siennas) and “blue” (cobalt and maganese for their granulating effects, and ultramarine for its mixing properties).

Leader of the Pack

The finished painting of Stella with part of her herd at Strang Ranch, Carbondale Colorado.   A most satisfying project, to capture the horses, the mountain setting, and the mood of the day.  All the horses were excited, and Stella led the band up and down the pasture.  She is such a strong, independent mare, the Queen Bee of the herd.  My goal was to visually tell the story of such a mare, with both personality and attitude.

A curtain of rain hung from the skies, lifting in places to highlight  the golden landscape of Strang Ranch, especially the aspen grove and blooming rabbit brush.  Mt. Sopris stands sentinel in the distance.

I think when one spends a lot of time with a horse through visual study and painting, that horse gets into the psyche. I was able to learn about Stella on a deep and very unique level.  Today I saw her as the subject of a new painting.  I plan to paint her in a looser, more stylistic manner, while emphasizing  her strong queenly personality.

Leader of the Pack
Leader of the Pack

Anatomy of a Commission- part 1

The painting project I’ve recently begun was initiated by a commission for a daughter-in-law’s birthday.  After meeting the recipient, and learning about her style and tastes, we reviewed my paintings, noting which ones appealed to her.  Then we set out to meet her horse.  Stella is a lovely warmblood mare with tons of personality.  Arriving in the rain at the ranch where she is boarded, we slogged through wet grass and mud to her field.  It was magnificent!  The rain had lifted, and the rays of sun highlighted a mesa here, an aspen grove there, with layers of mountains peeking through a curtain of mist.   All along the way, Ashley told me stories of her mare. And there she was,  amid a large herd, in glorious surroundings with acres to roam.  Listening to the stories, watching her, and photographing her antics, I began to know Stella.

Later I reviewed my photos and chose a group of 5 that I would develop into a painting.  The photos included Stella running across her field,  other horses in her herd, a shot of  Mt. Sopris, the iconic peak of Carbondale, Colorado, and a grove of aspen trees spotlit against the stormy sky.  The photos suggested a narrative with an interesting cast of characters in a beautiful setting.  I began to see the painting as a movie!  The star of the show is Stella, the lovely grey warmblood mare.  Her supporting actors include the Bay, the Chestnut, and the Paint.  The setting is Strang Ranch, in a pasture aglow with blooming rabbit brush.  Mt Sopris looms in the background, jutting into a stormy sky.

The next step was to really get to know Stella, through a detailed pencil drawing.  Drawing allows me to slowly study the whole horse, learning about my subject through close observation.  Though I am drawing what I see on the outside, somehow her nature shines through, and I become acquainted with her personality also.  Most of my paintings begin with detailed pencil drawings.  When I drew Stella, I saw a strong Alpha mare.  Suddenly I had a title for the painting, “Leader of the Pack.”

study Stella
study Stella